What’s Your Word for 2014?

sunrise on Christmas morn

This was a beautiful sunrise Christmas morning, 2013.

I’m never good at keeping New Year resolutions, so I decided several years ago not to even try.  However, I’m not sure why, but it seems that God gives me insight for the year ahead each January.  In fact, last year I went into 2013 kicking and screaming with what I felt was ahead.  I was prepared for the worst and it came, plus some.  This year, though, I am at peace.  I feel in my heart that 2014 is going to be a year of blessings—so that is my word for 2014.  Blessings.

We have all been through several years now of uncertainty having lived through the recession, job losses, cutbacks, high gas prices, changes in healthcare and other various stressors just to mention a few.  Some of us were better prepared than others.  However, I don’t think any of us have walked through the last few years unscathed.  Through these lean years, our household has cut back dramatically on eating out, vacations, and other things we would typically have done in the past just in order to save a few dollars to make ends meet.  Perhaps you’ve done the same.

Maybe it’s just me…or maybe you will relate.  It seems like when we go through lean times like these that we tend to get our priorities in line a little better than when times are easier and more certain.  Sometimes when things go smoothly in everything we do, we take things for granted.  In today’s world, when you go to work and come home with your job intact, it is a good day.  So many people I know in the last few years have struggled financially just because they were out of work or perhaps their job was cut back to part time to avoid high insurance costs for their company.  In 2013, God showed me how He provides.  He taught me once again to praise Him for His provision and reminded me to pray for my husband’s career and mine.  He gently pointed out to me that I should not put my faith into our employers; rather, I need to trust Him daily and seek His direction for our income.

Also, a year ago this week, it was confirmed that I had breast cancer.  Talk about your world losing control.  As a matter of fact, most of 2013 was spent going to appointments related to treating either my condition or the residual effects of the cancer.  It was just a couple of weeks ago that I can actually say, “I feel like myself again for the first time in a year!”  God taught me in 2013 that no one’s good health is guaranteed.  We can eat all of the right foods, exercise and get 8 hours of sleep every night and still get a disease that can threaten our life.  He taught me to slow down and do only the things of importance for a while.  The house can wait.  I may not be able to be superwoman to my kids and grandkids for a season.  He met me every morning, faithfully, and showed me through His Word that He was taking care of me and it was OK not to be so independent.  He spoke to me about the fact that I am human, living in a temporary world.  He designed life so that we could depend on Him to get us through whatever comes our way.  He gave me renewed hope of an eternity with no more suffering someday.

I say all of this because even though 2013 was a year of suffering, depression, uncertainty and lots of unexpected expenses; God has proven Himself, once again, to be faithful.  I can go through life like I started out last January, kicking and screaming; or, I can simply choose to trust God.  If we experience despair in our finances, health, and other circumstances, we can make the choice to put God in a box and don’t believe He can.  Or, we can seek Him through our situations and marvel at how He takes us through the valleys so gracefully.  I went into 2013 scared and uncertain about tomorrow.  Today in 2014, I still don’t know what tomorrow brings.  However, I am grateful for a year of suffering so that when God’s blessings fall, I will no longer take them for granted. I look forward to trusting God even more and growing into a deeper relationship with Him in 2014.

God never lets us down. He may not answer how or when we would like, but He is always there.  Today I am rejoicing through the days ahead in 2014 knowing He has my best interest at heart.  I am looking towards 2014 as the year for blessings because I have learned; blessings may even come disguised as trials and tribulationsEvery year is a year of blessings if our hearts are set on Him!

Ephesians 1:3 (NIV) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

What’s your word for 2014?

Thankful To Be Thankful!

Wow!  What an emotional day it was yesterday!  Our church service was about adoption.   I left wanting to sell everything, move to Haiti, work in an orphanage and never have to see another kid in the world ever suffer again!  Obviously, that’s a silly thought; but nonetheless, I left wondering how God was calling me to help those less fortunate.  Then yesterday afternoon we joined many others in the community and delivered Thanksgiving dinner baskets in our surrounding area.  We saw a lot of poverty.  We saw some we suspect may have drug issues leading to their poverty and dysfunctional homes.  Then we went to a couple of very nice middle class homes.  Homes like what lives next to you and me perhaps—just average Americans.

The homes looked nice on the outside, but for them to be on the list for free turkey dinners, something had to be going terribly wrong on the inside.  Perhaps they had lost a job and been unemployed for months–or even years.  It might be that one of the adults in the family decided they didn’t want to be married anymore and the income of the spouse remaining in the home was greatly less than in the past.  I can relate to that.  Perhaps the main bread-winner was ill and the family was just trying to be there for him/her in their last days.  Maybe that explains the homes in disarray on the inside.  One never knows why someone is “on the list” so to speak.  I was reminded that we could all be “on the list” at any given time for any given reason no matter who we are.  I don’t even have to go to Haiti to find them!

Going from home to home with food baskets conjured up feelings I hadn’t felt in many years.  You see, there was a time when I was a single mom and short on cash.  I remember those who came to my door with bags of groceries because they felt God telling them to come.  Not only did they come with groceries; but they came with stuff my picky children would eat!  God even told them what to take!  I had to swallow my pride to accept them but what a blessing it was to get a little help here and there.  This time being on the giving side instead of the taking side was almost as hard.  I know how embarrassed those on the receiving end might have been.  It’s a humbling experience to be in that place.   I’ve been there.  However, on the giving side, you see those whose families have been turned upside down for one reason or another and a meal seems so insignificant.  It leaves one with a feeling that perhaps your turkey dinner you just delivered was merely a band-aid on a gaping wound.  We actually did nothing to help the family get out of the situation they are in.  We simply gave them one day of hope amidst their overwhelming hopelessness.  Then it’s back to reality.  Does God think I failed?  No.  I know I was obedient to complete my tiny part of the big picture He has for that family’s future.  In Matthew 25:40 (NIV) it says, “…Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  He didn’t say only the big things you do count; rather, He said whatever you do.

Our pastor challenged us Sunday to listen for what God is calling us to do no matter what it might be.  Whether it is to adopt ten children, go start an orphanage or just volunteer, get involved with the local homeless shelter, start a Bible study in our home or simply take a bag of groceries to someone— whatever God is asking us to do , we need to just do it!  Yesterday 225 meals were delivered.  Our family delivered about 8.  It took us about 3 hours to do it.  It’s a good thing that so many other volunteers were called to deliver meals too or we still wouldn’t have it done yet!  As a matter of fact, we wouldn’t be able to get it done before Thanksgiving even working day and night if we had to do it alone.   The one small thing that I can do for God and for others doesn’t look like much.  However, if each one of us is obedient to God when He calls, great things can be accomplished.

I am grateful for a God Who allows me to do His work here on this earth—it gives me purpose.  I am thankful that I personally have had suffering and loss in my life—it gives me compassion and understanding for those I serve.   I am blessed that He doesn’t expect me to do everything needing to be done.  My heart is warmed to know that I have brothers and sisters in Christ all around who are ready and willing to take action at any given time just because God said to!  This makes me part of a family even if my earthly family lets me down or in the case of the orphans—isn’t there at all.  I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit’s guidance to tell me where to go, what to do and how God can use me today.  That gives me power—the end result being a life lived with passion.

What are you thankful for?  Is God using you?  If not, why not?  What little thing can you do to get started on your journey God has planned for you?  How is He speaking to you today?

1Peter 4:10-11 (NIV) Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving to all…go out and be a blessing!

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